Partnerships in Global Health: Nursing Assessments with School-Age Children in Belize to Promote Healthy Living

Sunday, 27 July 2014: 10:50 AM

Mary Lou De Natale, EdD, RN, CNL
School of Nursing and Health Professions, University of San Francisco, School of Nursing and Health Professions, San Francisco, CA
Enna E. Trevathan, DNP, MSN, MBA, RN, CNL
School of Nursing and Health Professions, University of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

School age children across the world represent the future, thus their growth and development are a prime concern of all societies (World Health Organization, 2013).  One way to address this need is to educate children regarding their own health and wellness, which proved to be beneficial for a community in Belize, Central America.  This program provided a partnership for nurses and nursing students with children/ adolescents as they learned about how to perform their own health assessments.

Physical assessments and nutrition education for over 700 school-age children/ adolescents were provided. Children and adolescents, as active participants in their learning and health screenings, gained an understanding and skills for individualized health awareness.  The participation of teachers/ class members during the health assessments promoted dialogue on culture, traditions, and everyday life.  In addition, baseline measurements for each of the children/ adolescents on height, weight, blood pressure/ pulse, vision, and personal health concerns were learned by the children/ adolescents.  Reflective nursing practice helped build on the learning through: (1) understanding the individual health needs; (2) developing an awareness of the resources available in the school, family, and community; and (3) supporting leadership amongst the nurses and other health providers.

The rewards for teaching about health care practices also included being present with each child/ adolescent and listening to their personal thoughts and ideas.  Outreach opportunities for nurses to partner with a community to decrease potential health risks are a professional responsibility. Having a child listen to his/ her own heart and learn to take his/her pulse is forever a teachable moment giving support for learning, sharing, and practicing health promotion globally.

Based on the assessment results, some of the children were identified as undernourished with the potential of micronutrient deficiencies such as: iron, vitamin A, iodine, and zinc.  The health data provided to the Ministry of Health supported the strengthening of a nutritional dietary program for seventy-five additional children in the school.  Early identification of at-risk students can provide needed school feeding programs for this vulnerable population.  In addition, educational awareness was provided for the school principal, teachers, and staff with the tools to promote and sustain the implementation of healthy lifestyle programs in primary schools.